The Arab Rule in Crete

Arab Rule (824-961 AD)

After the capture of Crete by the Iberian Muslims, Candia (modern day Iraklion) was established as the capital of the island, rebuilt, fortified and surrounded by a deep protective trench. The Arabs called this town "Rabdh el Khandac" meaning the "Fortress of the Trench". From this name came the later ones: Chandakas (of the Second Byzantine Period) and Candia (of the Venetian period).

The newly established Emirate of Crete became a hotbed of Muslim piratical activity all over the Aegean and a constant source of irritation to Byzantium. This capture of the island was of major importance, transforming the naval balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean and opening up the Aegean to constant and devastating raids with the island eventually becoming the biggest slave market in the East. Under Arab rule, Crete now commanded all the sea lanes of the eastern Mediterranean and served as a base and safe harbour for pirate fleets.

The island prospered from not just the spoils of piracy but also from extensive trade and agricultural expansion. The Byzantines tried continuously to recover Crete although without success. In 826 AD the Byzantine General Karteros attempted an unsuccessful campaign against the Arabs. However, the Byzantines finally won it back in 960 AD when the General of the Byzantine army and the later emperor, Nikiforos Fokas, spearheaded a successful campaign which after a siege of many months led to the recovery of Crete in the spring of 961 AD and brought the island back into the Byzantine Empire. .